LAURA E. MORRIS, MD, MSPH, FAAFP
Immunization is a vital component of prenatal care — offering protection from preventable diseases to patients who are pregnant and their fetuses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends immunizing every patient who is pregnant during their third trimester with the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine and providing the influenza vaccine to all patients who are pregnant during flu season. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) jointly endorse these recommendations.
Young infants are at high risk for pertussis infection and death in the first months of life. Maternal immunoglobulins produced in response to the Tdap vaccine cross the placenta to provide passive immunity to the fetus, significantly reducing pertussis hospitalizations and death in infants in the first two months of life. Prenatal Tdap vaccination protects infants 85% more effectively than postpartum vaccination.
Influenza disproportionately impacts patients of reproductive age, leading to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including fetal loss and preterm delivery.6 Prenatal influenza vaccination also results in passive immunity for the fetus — critical protection before the infant reaches six months and is eligible for vaccination.
This educational supplement provides family physicians information about overcoming vaccine myths, misinformation, and mistrust; defines our role in vaccinating patients who are pregnant; and offers communication tips to address vaccine hesitancy.